It has started, my year of visiting small town Performing Art Centers to experience theater. If the remainder of the year is like this first trip, I’m going to have a wonderful time.
My partner in crime and I decided to go to the Schauer Performing Arts Center to see “I love you, You’re perfect, Now change”. In the same structure as last year, the plan was to find a restaurant in the town prior to or after the performance. We were going to do our own little dinner and a show. It happens that this performance was part of the Center’s cabaret series and therefore dinner was included. I will have to admit that I was slightly bummed. That’s because the Schauer PAC is in Hartford, WI home of The Mineshaft, the largest restaurant in all of Wisconsin. I’m a huge sucker for that kind of thing. Yes I admit, I stop at every large statue I see and get my picture taken – giant fish, enormous Paul Bunyons. I’m there.
Like most of the towns I have visited, I had never been to Hartford before. It has a beautiful downtown. We drove through it so I could at least see the outside of The Mineshaft and to kill a couple of minutes. I am one of those very punctual people so I have a tendency to arrive early and then have a need to figure out a way to amuse myself. I have driven around numerous neighborhoods in my lifetime eyeing the houses and imagining what they look like on the inside.
But back to the story. I found it humorous when we arrived at the PAC to find out that it really makes up a
portion of the building. The structure was the old Libby canning factory in its early days. I suppose it was just to big for a simple PAC so it is home to the Automobile Museum, an art gallery, a main stage (571 seats), a multipurpose performance/event room, and a Masonic Lodge. Are you ready…..it works. It works amazing well.Not only that, but portions of the old factory are visible like the big old beams. The effect is marvelous. From the lobby I was able to see into the Automobile Museum. They have a huge number of antique cars. I almost paid for an admission with the idea of running through the museum at record speed prior to the show. Unfortunately, I had spent too much time trolling the streets of downtown. My partner promised I could return another day and truly take in the museum.
The theater performance was produced by the Hartford Player’s Theater. Unbeknownst to me when making the reservations, it was actually a fundraiser for the PAC with the actors and actresses donating all proceeds to the PAC. The room was packed; not an empty seat in the house. The stage, though small was perfect for the production and the set up made for an intimate friendly environment. It seemed much more a conversation between friends then the viewing of a scene from the outside. The production is a musical with a small pit orchestra (3 members). Accept for one odd transition within a scene between dialogue and singing ( a change in performers that didn’t make sense), the production was flawless. The sound mixing, no easy fit in a small room with potentially odd acoustics, was handled beautifully, the performers were stellar, and the play itself hysterically funny.
1. Schauer Performing Arts and Activity Center – a gem
2. “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” – a must see, well worth the price and in this case worth even more as you support a worthy cause.
3. Food – okay, nothing to write home about but tasty just the same
4. Hartford – go for the day, see the sites and don’t miss the Automobile Museum.